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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

There’s a Sweet Spot for When You Should Job Hop if You Want to Make More Money

woman starting new job

In the past, we’ve defended job hoppers, noting that they’re not just better workers, but they’re also better paid. This isn’t to say that employee retention is a pointless goal for companies: We support initiatives that seek to keep loyal and dedicated staff, but, unfortunately, there’s little way around the fact that switching jobs can mean a big career boost—both in terms of money and job title.

Oliver Staley, writing for Quartz, discusses a study by ADP, the payroll processing company, which suggests that the largest salary increase occurs after two years at a company. Move on after that point, and you’re likely to garner higher wages from the next place you start working at. Two years is not the make or break point, however, though the study notes that staying longer than five and then leaving for something else may mean less of a jump. Of course, if you’re at an organization for five or more years, there’s a good possibility that you’re satisfied, stimulated, and feeling well compensated. (Unless you’re just feeling stuck, in which case, maybe it’s time to get out and try to get ahead elsewhere.)

Although getting promoted and receiving annual or close to annual raises is often a natural step in the career-building process, these days so is switching jobs. And if the ADP study indicates anything, it’s that the sweet spot is between two and five years.

Younger workers, especially, tend to see the biggest jump in pay from job-hopping—approximately an 11% gain. But professionals over the age of 25 shouldn’t be concerned with this finding, which seems logical more than anything else. As entry-level employees start out on a lower pay scale, it stands to reason that their increases are going to be bigger; that is, a person making $45K could be making close to $50K with an 11%, while a person bringing in $75K may receive a respectable 8% bump, landing him at $81K per year. It’s still a heck of a lot better than the average 3 to 5% raises most companies dish out to employees each year—if they’re giving out raises at all!

If you’re in the middle of a job search and leaving a company every few years sounds like something you’d rather not do, when an offer comes around, be careful to negotiate a starting salary that you can work with for at least a year or two. Don’t accept something hoping that after putting in a stellar performance, you could be bumped up by as much as 10%; because for that, you’re probably going to have to get a new job.